When time is short, think thin

Pound for pound, you can't beat these quick-cooking meats

Pork with Orange-Cranberry Sauce

Every minute counts if you don't get home until 6 on a weeknight and still need to prepare dinner. That's why we're launching a new monthly feature, The Quick Cook. Our aim is to provide you with easy, delicious recipes ― plus tips and shortcuts ― to help you serve a dinner you'll be proud of, in 30 minutes or less.

One shortcut is a basic cooking principle we sometimes forget: thinner cuts of meat cook faster. In fact, you'll cut the cooking time for steaks, pork or lamb chops, boneless chicken breasts, and turkey breast slices or cutlets to less than five minutes if you first pound them until they're very thin. Even with the time it takes to pound the meat, you'll save 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the cut.

"Thinning" meat is easy. Just trim off and discard any excess fat, then place the meat between two pieces of plastic wrap. With a heavy, flat-sided mallet or a clean hammer, firmly pound all over until the meat is 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Just don't pound hard enough to tear the meat.

But first, start two pans of water heating for the broccoli and the couscous, then zip through the pork recipe. Right before dinner's ready, pull a quart of vanilla ice cream from the freezer to soften; come dessert time, stir in 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and serve with purchased caramel sauce.

MORE THIN, SPEEDY ENTRÉES

Pound boneless lamb loin chops as directed. Sauté; remove from pan. To pan, add a smoothly blended mixture of 3/4 cup beef broth, 1/4 cup dry red wine, 2 tablespoons each balsamic vinegar and honey, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Boil until slightly thickened; pour over meat. Drizzle sesame oil and sprinkle minced fresh mint leaves on top.

Pound boneless beef steaks as directed. Sauté; remove from pan. To pan, add a smoothly blended mixture of 3/4 cup beef broth, 1/4 cup dry sherry, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Boil until slightly thickened; pour over meat. Drizzle sesame oil and sprinkle chopped green onion on top.

Pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts as directed. Sauté; drizzle with a mixture of Mexican crema (or sour cream), lime juice, minced fresh cilantro, and canned chopped green chilies.

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